Jeremiah Evarts was an American missionary who had visited Cherokee country in Georgia and who wrote a series of passionate essays in an attempt to defend the Cherokees from the depredations of Georgia. Using the pseudonym of William Penn, for the founder of Pennsylvania who notably had recognized Indian rights, he wrote 24 essays arguing for the rights of Indians. He was one of the leading opponents of Indian removal in general and the removal of the Cherokees from the Southeast in particular.
In an essay published on this day in history, Evarts wrote eloquently (but to no avail):
The Cherokees are human beings, endowed by their Creator with the same natural rights as other men. They are in peaceable possession of a territory which they have always regarded as their own. This territory was in possession of their ancestors, through an unknown series of generations, and has come down to them with a title absolutely unencumbered in every respect. It is not pretended, that the Cherokees have ever alienated their country, or that the whites have ever been in possession of it. . . . “
Evarts continued in a later essay that if Georgia’s assertion of power over the Cherokees “is to be endured by an enlightened people in the nineteenth century, and if, in consequence of it, the Cherokees are to be delivered over, bound and manacled, if this is to be done in the face of day . . . hisses of shame and opprobrium will be heard in every part of the civilized world.”
Alas, the rest of the “civilized world” was preoccupied with its own depredations, and the Cherokees were forced out of Georgia in 1838 and 1830 as part of Andrew Jackson’s Indian removal policy. The migrants faced hunger, disease, and exhaustion on the forced march. Over 4,000 out of 15,000 of the Cherokees died.
You can read more excerpts of Evarts’ essays here.